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Old Timers give 4 honorees their due

Updated 5:08 pm, Saturday, November 10, 2012

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  • Former New York Mets pitching star Ron Darling, second from left, autographs a baseball during the 52nd Annual Greenwich Old Timers Awards Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich, Friday night, November 9, 2012. Standing from left to right, with Darling, are Greenwich Boys & Girls Club Honor Guard members, Victor Sanchez, 15, Emilio Rojas, 13, and Peter Hughes, 16. Darling was honored during the dinner. Photo: Bob Luckey / Greenwich Time
    Former New York Mets pitching star Ron Darling, second from left, autographs a baseball during the 52nd Annual Greenwich Old Timers Awards Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich, Friday night, November 9, 2012. Standing from left to right, with Darling, are Greenwich Boys & Girls Club Honor Guard members, Victor Sanchez, 15, Emilio Rojas, 13, and Peter Hughes, 16. Darling was honored during the dinner. Photo: Bob Luckey

 

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The special quartet of Joe Cabrera, Dick Pace, Brian Foster and Dick Steele have unselfishly given much of their time and energy to the Greenwich sports community for decades.

Friday, the Old Timers Athletic Association of Greenwich gave something back to the well-known foursome.

Pace, Cabrera, Foster and Steele were recognized as the local honorees at the Old Timers Athletic Association's 52nd annual Sports Awards Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Greenwich.

Former New York Mets All-Star pitcher Ron Darling and Ron Greschner, who spent all 16 years of his career as a defenseman for the New York Rangers, were Friday's national honorees.

The Greenwich High School football team's rich history has included a wealth of standout running backs. Cabrera is indeed, on that list. After starring in football, basketball and track and field at Eastern Junior High School, Cabrera excelled on the Cardinals football team from 1975-1976, amassing 2,309 yards (which was then, a school record).

"It was great playing football at Greenwich and I'm so honored to be recognized tonight by the Old Timers," Cabrera said.

An All-State selection and Connecticut Offensive Player of the Year his senior year, Cabrera continued is football career at Columbia University, where he was named to the All-Ivy team as a junior.

While playing for coach Mike Ornato's Cardinals, Cabrera held records for most yards in a season (1,409) and in a game (241), most points in a season (181) and most points in a single game (30).

"I never had any complaints about playing for coach Ornato," a smiling Cabrera said. "He gave me the ball all the time, so of course, I liked that."

A coach for the Putnam Generals football team and Greenwich Youth Lacrosse teams from 1993-2003, Cabrera, enjoyed watching his four children shine in athletics at Greenwich High. His sons Jimmy and Tyler were all-state players in both football and lacrosse while his daughter Brooke led GHS to the state field hockey championship as a goalie. Jimmy earned All-American honors as a midfielder at Middlebury, while Brooke is a goalie for the two-time Division I national champion University of Maryland field hockey team.

"My dad watched me and my brother play sports for so many years, so sitting there at games doing what my dad did with me feels great," Cabrera said.

Since arriving in Riverside in 1971, Pace has served as a mentor for thousands of youngsters he's coached. He helped jump-start the OGRCC Junior Lacrosse Program, turning it into a program that included just 19 players to an organization that featured more than 1,500.

"Giving back to the community has always been important to me and that's what I've always liked about the Old Timers," Pace said.

"Mentoring kids, giving back to the community-- that's what the Old Timer's Athletic Association represents."

A Bucknell University graduate, Pace served in the Army as a first Lieutenant in the 8th Special Forces Group located in Panama. He coached baseball, hockey and lacrosse in town for years and watched his sons Rich and Greg play hockey and lacrosse at GHS.

"I enjoyed watching the kids I coached come up through the program and have fun," Pace said. "A lot of them got to go to college because of athletics."

Foster, who grew up playing football, baseball and basketball, was the starting quarterback on Ornato's Greenwich team in 1973. He served as a football coach for the BANC Raiders and guided several youth basketball teams in town.

Currently a volleyball coach at Hastings High School in Hastings, N.Y., Foster was diagnosed with cancer in May.

"After three full treatments, I am in remission, though the side effects are eating me up," Foster said. "I lost a lot of weight, but my spirits are up and my strength is up.

One of my biggest accomplishments was getting into coaching. There is no better feeling in the world than giving back to the kids."

After coaching Babe Ruth baseball in Greenwich for years, Steele guided the Greenwich Collegians baseball squad for nearly a decade, following its inception in 1986.

"One thing I remember is Mike Mora (Greenwich High baseball coach) telling me that I taught a lot of young fellas and it meant so much to him to have someone like me give back to the community," Steele said. "Seeing young athletes develop was very rewarding."

Darling, a two-time All-Star, who helped lead the Mets to the World Series title in 1986, was pleased to be back in town for such an event.

"For them to even consider me for this award is an honor," Darling said. "My connection to Greenwich is greatness because the first time I came here was when Tom Seaver invited me over to his house for dinner. You can't say no to Tom Seaver."

david.fierro@scni.com

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